Case Studies

Street Trees

case-street_tree_case1There is a way not only to cope with less water when managing green assets, but to even improve on the results…

Way out west there’s a Scotsman from Dundee with 27 years’ experience in looking after public open space – John Christie, Manager Parks, Leisure & Environment for the City of Belmont, Western Australia. About the time he took up the role, three and a half years ago, the city’s street trees were planted under contract – 1,000 each year. What is remarkable, and for the wrong reason, was the failure rate which John estimates was somewhere between 75 and 80 per cent.

“It was basically due to poor planting practices and insufficient water, so we brought the planting back in-house. We increased the size of the trees from 45 to 100 litre stock – three to four times larger – and then reduced the number we plant to 250. We also adopted better planting practices.” From that point on there may have been fewer trees going in, but given their maturity, they had an increased impact on the landscape. And with the revised planting and management protocols, the survival rate now sits comfortably between 85 and 90 percent.

Part of this success is due to TerraCottem, which comes into this story around two years ago. “Being in this job, there are always people out there wanting to sell me almost anything – wetting agents to barbeque cleaning services. I think the reason I stopped to take a closer look at TerraCottem was because the people were genuine. On top of that they were willing to come over and educate the staff at no cost. We’ve some very switched on parks supervisors who took a close look at the technical information and they were keen to test it out.”

Applied to TerraCottem’s specifications as part of a landscape around the Civic Centre, the results soon showed that it wasn’t, as John puts it, “just another product”. TerraCottem The plants matured at twice the rate with virtually no losses and with a success rate of 98 per cent, which was quite remarkable given the planted areas are irrigated from scheme water and subject to water restrictions.

The logical step was then to write it, with expert advice from TerraCottem, into the street tree management plan. Each new tree goes into a hole ten times the volume of the root ball with a specific amount of TerraCottem mixed evenly into the backfill. (“We appreciate the value of the advice – one poor fellow was throwing it in by the handful, and the shrubs were being pushed out of the ground.”)

Not only has TerraCottem managed to take the sting out of once hostile sites like the asphalt-ringed round-about, but it has the capacity to reduce water consumption. “Currently our street trees are irrigated with part of our annual allocation on 7,500 kilolitres. That could well change, so we’re currently trying to determine the minimum needed to establish and maintain these trees – can we get away with irrigating them only once a week?”

As John points out, “If you’ve seen the results you’d know that this stuff is not the same as everything else.  And the advantages clearly outweigh the increased cost in applying it because you don’t have to get a crew back to replant new stock. I can’t speak highly enough about it – without question it’s done everything they’ve said it would do.”

To read more about TerraCottem soil conditioner and street tree planting, click here.

Sports Turf

case-sports-turfThanks to Roger Ward, Laurence Blacka and Craig Feuerriegel, we’ve put together three little turf case studies – two serious rebuilds and a test plot on a foul site…

Let’s begin with Newcastle’s Arthur Edden Oval, home to both the Northern NSW Soccer Federation and The Lambton Jaffa’s Soccer Club. An enclosed field with a grandstand, it sees a lot of action – training sessions and games – from junior to senior teams. Despite an upgrade to facilities at the field’s edge several years ago – a new amenities block complete with a canteen – until recently the actual playing ground had some serious issues…

When Roger Ward, Newcastle City Council’s Recreation Project Officer says that the field didn’t meet standards, he’s politely understated things. In fact, all the fundamental essentials of a living turfed playing surface were compromised. “It wasn’t a level playing field and that was because it had been both a soccer and a cricket field in the past. When it was dedicated to soccer, the cricket wicket soil was removed but the surface wasn’t regraded so the high point where the pitch had been was still there.”

And that’s not all. “There was very poor turf coverage – I’d estimate fifty percent grass and fifty percent weed – and the soil was seriously compacted.” The implications of a field that didn’t drain well included games played elsewhere and this translated to a loss of income for the club when that fabulous new canteen wasn’t able to carry out its usual fundraising activities during hosted games.

Happily this story has a promising ending. It was obvious that the oval needed major work, and that it couldn’t be undertaken in stages. To make it all possible, the cost of work was shared between Council and the Club. To top things off, the Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW provided funding and support through a trial (titled Improving the Performance and Sustainability of Sporting Fields Using Recycled Organics) which is looking into the effects of introducing soil conditioning and organic matter into playing fields. (“They’re looking at how it affects compaction and therefore water retention.”)

With all this in place, work began in October of 2007, the aim being to have the turf ready for action with the start of the 2008 soccer season.

“We began by removing all the grass which was stockpiled and used later to green up the surrounds. Three hundred millimetres of soil was then removed – and to do it we had to use a dozer to rip and push it back because the soil was so compacted a grader wouldn’t do it.” The Department-supplied recycled organic matter was then rotary hoed in, along with the star ingredient – TerraCottem. “We’ve been using TerraCottem for all our street trees for over ten years. We’d also recently used it on one of our other fields and the result was enough for me to say that we need to use it when we do any major field renovations.”

Following these soil additions, the oval was laser levelled and a Hunter irrigation system installed, hooked up to an almost unbelievable asset – a natural spring which fills two underground tanks located conveniently on the edge of the ground.

“To help speed up establishment and meet our deadline, we laid kikuyu in maxi rolls, 1.2 metres wide and 20 metres long. To establish the turf, the irrigation was scheduled every second day for two weeks, then we reduced it to nothing over the following month, and they were running on the field after only three more weeks. We did miss a couple of games at the beginning because we’d lost some time earlier during construction through heavy rain, but the field has held up very well in its first season, especially since it’s had no water following establishment, only normal rain fall.”

And that’s where the findings of the soil scientist supplied as part of the Department’s trial are interesting. “They’re monitoring the site for twelve months and to date are really pleased with the soil profile. Testing also showed that the root growth was very impressive – between 100 and 120 mm down into the profile – something which was achieved in a very short growth season before winter set in and the grass went into its dormant stage.”

Overall the decision to use TerraCottem’s unique soil conditioning technology has been a success. During winter and during times with no rain for a month it hasn’t yellowed or died back but continued to grow. Since the turf first went in it never looked back, needing a trim in the first fourteen days. And perhaps most importantly, despite rain prior to matches, none have had to be cancelled which means the canteen has been open for business as planned. So how many sausages do you have to sell to pay for a half share of a rebuild like this one? A lot.

To read more about TerraCottem Turf soil conditioning, click here.

Scratching around on a foul site

Sometimes desperation creates an opportunity to try something new. Laurence Blacka of Redland City Council did just that in November last year when he decided to include TerraCottem as a soil conditioner in a *turf trial at the Raby Esplanade…

“After hearing about the product I decided to incorporate it in a trial I was already undertaking on soil remediation. The trial area’s behind a canal revetment wall where the soil is made up of marine muds and clays that were pumped in during the construction of the canals – it’s very anaerobic, low organic, acidic, salt laden, compacted, with some areas of poor drainage.

“Growing on top was a mixture of all types of turf species – predominantly green couch, sporobilis and patches of kikuyu and bahia grass – not that we were too concerned as we aren’t trying to establish a monoculture here but rather taking the approach, if it can grow here, let it.”

The process was fairly straightforward: the area was rotary hoed to 150mm then the necessary amendments (lime, magnesium and organics) added as prescribed by the soil analysis. Then the TerraCottem was added and the whole mix hoed in. After leveling, the main trial area was turfed with sea isle turf, and a smaller area nearby left prepared and treated but not turfed to see what would grow back from the original grasses that were hoed in. The area was then watered in and regularly irrigated for 10 days after which everything was left to fend for itself.

And what did the trial show? “The area seemed to consume a large volume of water on the initial watering and then required little water to maintain sufficient water for turf establishment. The turf did establish quickly and well and the area not turfed showed earlier than estimated regrowth of the green couch which had been hoed in. In the longer term both areas completely established a good coverage and continue to do well. Compared to the control area where no TerraCottem was used, the new areas seem to hold colour a little longer through prolonged dry periods and appear to bounce back a little quicker after a rain event.”

Laurence’s honest feeling about TerraCottem? “I have no doubts about the positive effects of using it for turf establishment but it’s not cost effective on large areas where budgets are very limited. We’ve also used TerraCottem in some tree planting projects with very good results and believe we’ll continue to use it.”

To read more about TerraCottem Turf soil conditioning, click here.

When wear and tear is your main problem

Sometimes all that’s wrong with a playing field is its popularity – take the A J Kelly Park at Redcliffe in South East Queensland as a classic example. Home to the Peninsula Power Football Club, this field is the Club’s main competition oval. Inspected prior to each season by the Football Association, the playing surface has to meet standards. And given the amount of use the ground gets – men’s and women’s premier teams as well as other division’s and the junior league’s finals – meeting those standards was getting tougher each year. Club President Craig Feuerriegel explains why.

“It’s our flagship park and it gets a lot of use – recovery time was becoming an issue – but we also had some issues with drainage and levels. It was clear that we should to start from scratch, so we applied successfully for funding from both local and state governments, showing that both maintenance and water use would be reduced.”

Australian Irrigation Services began work once the season finished, with a representative from Council keeping in close contact and helping to keep things on track. The process was straightforward: nuking the existing mish-mash of species then hoeing them to produce a soil bed; trenching the field and installing a new, fully-automated, pop-up irrigation system complete with tanks off the club house roof; broadcasting the TerraCottem and rotary hoeing it all in; laser leveling the field; then rolling out the Tif Sport turf chosen “…  because it has a reputation for being hard-wearing, versatile with a good recovery rate.” Establishment irrigation wasn’t too much of an issue as there had been plenty of natural rainfall (too much in fact) over the life of the project.

Looking at the field after its first season of play, Craig can’t say the establishment was anything to remark about one way or the other. “But the recovery is a lot better than we’d seen in previous years.” Which is good news given the TerraCottem wasn’t a small item on the budget. “Our contractor, Dean Smith, sold me on the idea for the longer term, saying we’d have better growth, better recovery time, and better water retention – which was also important because we didn’t want to be putting as much water on the ground as we had in the past. Yes, it was a significant part of the budget (which we could have made use of elsewhere) but we were doing the job properly with long-term benefits in mind. This was the way to go, so we kept the TerraCottem in the schedule of works.”

To read more about TerraCottem Turf soil conditioning, click here.


case-landscapingNot everyone gets an opportunity like this, to play a major role in creating a botanic garden from scratch. Listening to Acting Manager, Helen Paulsen talk about the birth of the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens, you have not only a sense of the scope of the project, but also her joy at its success. And yes, TerraCottem has had something to do with it. But before we let Helen tell the story, it’s worth setting the scene…

The earliest written records of the site show that John Mackay camped there on his journey of exploration. It next features during the late 1870s as a state government acclimatisation site where, on some of the best soils in the area, various economic crops were trialled from – sweet potatoes (a success) to apricots (not wildly so). In the years that followed, ‘The Lagoons’ — as it is best known locally — served as the city’s water reserve, a water treatment plant, the town soil supply, unofficial picnic precinct for the local landholders, sugar cane growing, and since the 1970s, open parkland. But by 1985 the countdown had begun, started by the increasingly vocal local chapter of The Society for Growing Australian Plants. A decade or so later, a landscape designer was appointed, the site was agreed and Helen joined the Mackay Council to help set the brief and source funding…

“We began construction with phase one in May 2002 which officially opened a year later.  The entire project is estimated at more than $14 million for the entire project which will cover 48 hectares. Stage one cost $3.6 million and with that we were able to build not only the main administration building, the visitor centre and viewing deck, but also some significant garden areas – the Sarina Proserpine Range area, the Tropical Shade Garden, the Tropical Sun Lawn, the Malta Precinct, the Hedges and Screens Garden, the Japan precinct and a Regional Habitat Forest.”

“Tube stock planted with TerraCottem is better than using advance plant stock, because the boost it gets means it will double the other in size in12 months. And there’s no contest between spending $1.85 and $185.”  – Helen Paulsen

Stage two quickly followed with a further astonishing list of experiences, among them, “the Coal Gardens, the Torres Strait Islands precinct, Under the Banyan Tree Play Garden”; and stage three is now in the planning stage.

“When we first started out, there was definite resistance to spending this sort of money on a botanic garden – people couldn’t see the use. But within 18 months that had changed and the positive response has been overwhelming. I’ve people – grey nomads from the south – who make a point of stopping on a yearly basis because it’s changing so fast that it’s a pleasure to see.”

There’s only one sad note in this story, and that’s the fact that Helen didn’t have the chance to see TerraCottem in action on her patch until late during phase one. But since that trial, TerraCottem’s soil conditioning technology has been used to plant everything in the Garden from that point on, and it’s now also specified by the City of Mackay in all its landscaping – street trees, gardens – as well as any commercial developments.

As for Helen’s fateful trial, “I found a difficult bit of soil – compacted, windblown and dry – that wouldn’t grow grass. We couldn’t dig a hole with a crow bar so we brought in the back hoe. We applied the TerraCottem to all but two control sites, then planted tube stock. Everything was watered once a week for the first three months until the pressure to use staff elsewhere forced us to leave them to fend for themselves. And in that first year, all the treated plants not only lived but they grew 1.8 metres as compared with the control plant (the other died) which grew to 900 centimetres. They were literally double the size with more leaves and they looked much, much happier.”

This test, along with the results, was timely. Who would ever have thought water would be an issue in Mackay – but it is. “Since 2003 our wet seasons have failed us so that instead of 1.2 metres of rain we’re only getting 600. Given our role in preserving many of the threatened, endangered and vulnerable local plant species in this area, we’ve had to ensure our collection is safe from drought, and TerraCottem makes this possible.”

To read more about TerraCottem’s unique soil conditioning technology, click here.

Golf Courses

case-golf-constructionThe Federal Golf Club in Canberra is recognised as one of Australia’s premier inland courses. With sweeping views to the Brindabella Ranges this picturesque par 73 layout boasts tall stands of Eucalyptus forest and a wealth of native wildlife.

Like most courses in Australia, water has become an increasingly important issue at the Federal. Faced with a water table in steady decline, the club has in recent years had little option but to reluctantly top-up its needs from the city water supply. The expense of this, together with environmental issues and the prolonged drought, all contributed to the club taking a decision to seek a better, more cost-effective solution to its water management problems.

Consequently, when it came time to plan the greens’ replacement strategy, water usage was a key issue that took centre stage. Russell James and Tarrant Baguley from TC Advantage knew that TerraCottem held the potential to save many mega litres annually.

Work at the Federal commenced in early 2002 with the construction of two temporary greens, followed in January 2003 by the reconstruction of both the fourth and fifteenth greens.

There are other cost benefits as well; there has been no sign of fungal outbreaks with pythium, anthracnose and fusarium making chemical and labour savings. Federal Golf Club’s intention is to use TerraCottem in all remaining green reconstructions.

Want to know more about golf course turf and landscaping? Click here.


case-lawns2If you put aside for the moment the savings in water, replacement plants and even fertilisers, this comment from Steve MacRae says it all. He led the team that decided to use TerraCottem on a 73 hectare development site half an hour north of Byron Bay. He’s also more than happy to explain why he agreed to spend half a million dollars on a soil additive. But first, let’s go back to the beginning, when all around lay sand, sand and more sand…

The site chosen by the Ray Group, developers of the Salt project in South Kingscliff Northern NSW, had been sand mined for thirty years up until the eighties. Mostly flat land, the site was about eighty per cent was covered in bitu bush – a noxious weed known for its swift growth and the ability to overpower native plants. Oh, and there wasn’t any soil – “There was soft pure sand, north, south, east and west and as far down as you can dig”. But the site did have assets – not that they wouldn’t at times make their demands – a natural creek, sand dunes and the sea.

Salt, “a village by the sea” was planned as a “world’s best practice” master planned village community containing some 1,500 titles made up of high quality residential precincts and two major Outrigger and Peppers resorts – see www.saltvillage.com.au. Steve was the senior developer for the project. Together with the landscape architect, contractor and environmental consultant, it was his job to turn a weedy, windy, salty and sandy site into an oasis of green wrapped around two deluxe resorts and a master-planned sea-side village.

“We started on the weeds, working on the main body of the site with machinery, but when we came to the dunes and the riparian section along the creek – both over a kilometre long – we had to work by hand.”

“We couldn’t afford to apply it over the whole site, but it wasn’t long before we could all tell where it’d been used – there was absolutely no doubting its performance.”

All along Steve was very conscious of the sand. “Having been a mineral sand mining site, the remaining sand was loose with little capacity to stabilise or support growth. On top of that we’d carried out major earthworks moving 1.5 million cubic metres of sand, plus 700,000 cubic metres of sand brought in from further inland along an eight kilometre-long pump pipeline. We’d raised the level of the site to ensure views over the natural dunes to the ocean, but also to give the profile of the site some character, and then we were facing the further cost of importing large volumes of topsoil.”

With a landscape budget of $20 million, Steve and the team had to take steps to ensure, not only that the investment in plants would be protected, but that the green spaces would be resilient and sustainable. “Sitting at the centre of the project is a major park which doubles as an outdoor amphitheatre and it had to have quick recovery capabilities built in.”

Russell James of TerraCottem was called in and asked to put together a proposal for the project. “I asked him to prove to me that the TerraCottem would work, both economically and environmentally.”

Russell met with the team members, spent time on site and presented not only proof of how effective the use of TerraCottem as a soil additive had been in other similar situations, but also how it could be best put to use on the Salt development. “He covered everything, from the savings on water during establishment irrigation to the products ability to reduce leaching of nutrients into the creek in the long term. He claimed we could turn the sand into a growing medium and he convinced an initially sceptical landscape architect and contractor – the ones who would be guaranteeing the works. He was given the go-ahead, “and we were all convinced in a very short space of time.”

While the now-completed buildings offer a buffer from the wind, which can be extreme because of the direct exposure to the ocean, when the site was initially planted, conditions were tough. “It was extremely harsh, with little cover from the salt and wind, and yet our plant loss rate was cut in half. It also halved the time it took for the landscape to mature which is critical when you are opening new four and five star resorts. The amount of water needed for establishment was significantly reduced, and what we did apply was retained instead of passing straight through sand to the aquifer.”

For more about the use of TerraCottem as a soil additive, click here.

Roof Gardens

case-roof-gardens2It’s not an accident that Darling Park was so named, given that at the centre of this Sydney waterfront development lies a jewel of a roof garden. Created with some of the best talent around – Eric Kuhne & Associates, Site Image Landscape Architects, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and The Lend Lease Design Group – from concept through to creation, these roof gardens were ambitious. Roughly ten years on, they remain a wonderful example of what can be achieved with the right expertise and a willingness to push the boundaries. In fact, many of the boundaries pushed have become today’s benchmarks.

Ross Shepherd recalls the brief – to develop a multi-dimensioned corporate roof garden with many functions. “It was to provide an outlook for the tenants; areas for lunchtime seating; spaces for use during functions.”

All this was achieved by creating a parterre which, when viewed from above, reveals itself as an astonishing flower. Each section within the flower gives Park users that chance to find seclusion, while a stroll around the perimeter takes you through a series of rooms, each distinguished by flora from the continents of South America, Europe, Africa, Oceania, Asia and North America. Winding its way through all flows a creek, broken here and there by falls which muffle noise from outside the Park and help build a sense of distance from the city beyond and the traffic below.

Probably the most challenging aspect of the project was the slab over which the roof garden was constructed. “The beams within the slab created planting pockets, the soil depths varying from 600 to 1200mm deep. Our task was to design a landscape without apparent interruption (by the beams) to the design of the garden.”

Also part of the team were Ian Innes and Bruce Rann from Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Ian recalls, “It was a site with a lot of constraints – quite hostile – but that was offset by the fact that we were working with Lend Lease who were open to our suggested solutions to the technical aspects. This was a project where the landscape was not a minor afterthought. It was the key element. The result is a long way from the space marked in green on the initial master plan.”

Bruce and Ian’s main task was to support Eric Kuhne’s plant designs with knowledge of how plants would likely behave in that particular harbourside site. But what any good horticulturalist knows, success comes from the soil up, and apart from the plant knowledge, it was Ian’s self-confessed interest in soils that proved invaluable.

“The garden is essentially a large planter box, sitting over a car park and Sydney’s Western Distributor. Our first task was to ensure good drainage, not only to reduce the potential load on the slab but to avoid anaerobic soil conditions. We then spent some time getting a specialised planting mixture concocted – light-weight, free draining, without too much organic matter to produce subsidence later. We explained to Lend Lease that it was important to spend time and effort getting the soil right – you don’t want to have to take it out.”

The final recipe included a high inert quotient (volcanic ash), pine bark nuggets for their ability to break down slowly, ground dolerite for good cation exchange – and TerraCottem. “Not knowing what the future maintenance would be, we specified TerraCottem, not only because of the hydrogel content and additional boost to cation exchange, but because of the slow-release fertilisers.”

The mix proved to be a performer – “Plant growth was a great success from the outset”, says Ian while Ross describes it as “a very high level of success of both the garden and the planting.” However it wasn’t an easy task getting it or the trees into position.

Ross explains. “All materials were brought in on conveyor belts, and the trees, which had been grown specifically in crates only 600mm deep, were planted by crane.”

“Post planting some trees failed, though this was well within the accepted range, and while we don’t have two Darling Parks to make a comparison, TerraCottem reduced requirements for fertilisers and watering — it was an integral part of the solution to on-slab planting.”

From Ian’s perspective, success came through paying attention on two fronts; appropriate plant species and a good soil mixture. Ten years ago, TerraCottem was chosen to be part of the mix, and it looks as though the decision was a good one.

To read more about the use of TerraCottem as a soil conditioner in roof gardens, click here.

Flowering Plants

case-floweringFabulous flowers at floriade

With over a million spring bulbs and annuals on display, and described as ‘Canberra’s springtime gift to Australia,’ Floriade is probably the nation’s leading spring flower festival.

The use of TerraCottem’s soil conditioning technology for floral displays is not new; the role of TerraCottem is boosting floral displays — and making them last longer — goes back many years both in Australia and in Europe. The effectiveness of TerraCottem in bringing on superior blooms is well known within the industry.

To read more about TerraCottem soil conditioning, click here.

Landcare and Regevetation

case-landcare_case3Here’s a no-brainer. If someone goes to the trouble to dig a hole and plant something in it, they want it to live. When they come back later, they’d like to see a bit of living green. And if they’re in the business of planting things, then they definitely want to see thriving plants for more reasons than personal gratification.

Shane Grundy is the Bush Doctor, and he’s in the business of bush regeneration, or as he puts it “restoring and maintaining ecosystems.” Working in the Cumberland Plain Woodlands, Western Sydney, Shane and his team handle projects for catchment management authorities, councils and water suppliers – doing everything from fabricating landscapes from scratch to bush regeneration (“helping to reinstate the natural processes”). The methods Shane uses are varied: tools like engineering works with rocks to divert and manage run off; weed management; and, of course, planting.

Which is where TerraCottem comes in. “I was talking to Russell James one day a few years ago, about this new product he had which had been developed to stop desert encroachment in Africa. He pointed out that I could probably make good use of it.”

The Bush Doctor’s first planting with the TerraCottem soil conditioning treatment took place in William Howe Regional Park back in 2001. The site was high, dry and exposed. “We were working in very hard shale-based soils. It was a horrible place to work.”

And the result? “I have vivid memories of it. I did notice a difference – bloody oath. And I wasn’t the only one; the national park and wildlife ranger couldn’t believe it either, how quickly things grew and how healthy it all looked. I’ve been using it ever since and I don’t like to plant without it.”

Oh, and there’s one more benefit. Part of planting is the follow up maintenance which includes giving plantings two or three follow up waterings. Working with TerraCottem reduces the need to go back!

Service, Workshops and Evaluation

case-workshop11You’ve made the commitment to give TerraCottem a go. You’ve found funds in the budget and placed the order. And then you’re being booked into a how-to workshop and you wonder, what’s that all about and is it necessary?

“It was the first time we’d had training come with a pallet of product.” Michael Hamling, Manager Parks & Environmental Operations for the City of Gosnells, is talking about the order they placed roughly five years ago. “You couldn’t help be impressed by the way they backed up the product with the technical training; saying they wouldn’t supply unless we did the training.”

In the years since, Gosnells has had three more sessions to cater for staff turnover. And in Michael’s opinion it’s important. “We’ve three areas of operations – landscape design and construction, parks operations, and environmental operations. The 55 staff cover an area of close to 130 square kilometres, with 31 active reserves, 238 passive, 18 conservation areas and 40,000 street trees. The training we give our staff is based on the belief that a bit of knowledge for everyone goes a long way.”

In fact, training appears to be an integral part of optimising the council’s people resource. Whatever the training – machinery operations, asset data management, traffic management – the moment is maximised to help build connections between different teams, encourage networking and information sharing. “Working in a crew, it’s easy to become insular. The training sessions are a chance for people to come together and have a bit of a chat; then there aren’t issues when we need someone to move to another crew.”

The TerraCottem training slots right in, helping to achieve this, and give everyone the knowledge needed to make the most of the product. It takes half a day, and is a combination of white board time and a practical session. “Following the training they can go out straight away and know what they’re doing. And since the results are fairly immediate – they can see the quality of the plants – the TerraCottem is in the truck all the time. We never have to remind them to use it.”

What’s also good is the way the training sessions are geared to a range of existing skill levels. “We’ve general hands and qualified horticulturalists and the training puts it into context for everyone. They can see the relevance: those who’ve studied soils can see the science behind it; and the general hands know what the problems are and understand the logic of how it works.” The information is presented so that everyone comes away with something from one consistent message.

At another session run within the sister cities of Townsville and Thuringowa in Queensland, Project Officer Libby Guest gathered those people who’d need to know how best to use TerraCottem.

“I facilitate the Community Environment Fund, which helps local community groups with projects such as revegetation on public land – from riparian settings to coastal plantings into dunes, even planting into hideous clay.” Given that TerraCottem is used as part of the process, it made sense to hold a workshop. “Our aim was to get everyone in so that they could get a better idea of how to use the product properly. This is good stuff, but it’s not cheap, and from what the TerraCottem people had been saying to us, we had the sense that we were applying too much.”

Those who participated came not only from the Council, but included volunteers from Greencorp and Landcare Australia.

“I’d expected to learn about the product so the session was what I expected. But it was this and more. We were also given a good background on soil types and how the product responds to different soil conditions, something which was relevant especially since they’d done their homework and presented the information in the context of our local environment. The workshop certainly went well beyond the product.”

So at the end of the day, everyone knows what they’re working with and how best to get the most out of it. They’ve also had a nice little refresher course, not only of the basics everyone should know about what makes things grow, and what stops them, but also why they do what they do. Says TerraCottem’s Russell James, “Standing out the front at a workshop you can see that people appreciate that they are in a good industry. It’s also obvious that they care about what they do. And along the way, these workshops send a pretty clear message back, confirming that what they are doing is important.”